Sunday, July 30, 2017

Training log - Week ending 7/30/17

This week was 38 miles of running, 34 "miles" of pool-running and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Week 4 of marathon training.  I cut back the mileage significantly after Tuesday to rest up for my mile race Friday.  The race went well, so I was happy with that.

The downside of racing the mile was that I couldn't do my scheduled long run on Sunday.

I know myself, and though I adore racing road miles, they take a lot out of me.  I wouldn't think twice about running 16 miles easy the day after racing a 5K.   But miles are harder on my body, and paradoxically require more recovery.

I actually didn't feel quite as sore after this race as I have after previous ones - perhaps it's because this one was flat, perhaps it's because I didn't have that extra gear that I had earlier when I was focused on shorter distances.  Either way, I was tempted to do 16 on Sunday when I woke up and felt mostly fine.  But I resisted.

I've learned that there are several situations that predispose me for injury.  One is a mile race, another is long distance driving, and a third is sleep deprivation.  I checked all three boxes on Friday night, which meant no long run on Sunday, no matter how good I felt.  Just not worth the risk - especially when the most important weeks of the cycle are coming up.

So instead I did 12 on the road, and then doubled with 8 "miles" in the pool (and yes - I know this sums to 20 miles, but pool-running miles are far easier to recover and absorb than land).  My original plan had been to run 12 on land and then jump immediately in the pool to finish the run.  However, I ended up starting my land run a bit later than planned, and decided to make it into a double (with lunch between) instead.  I honestly don't think the break between the two runs made that much difference.

What was most important was that I did the land run first, and then the pool run.  When doing "combo" runs, I always like to do land, then pool.  This is because the greatest risk of injury is when I'm tired, at the end of my run.  IMHO, it makes much more sense to do the riskiest period of the run in the pool, where it's considerably harder to injure myself.  I worry that tiring my legs out in the pool and then finishing the run on land is playing with fire.

Next week I have my first "4-3-2-1" workout in about a year (segments of 4, 3, 2, 1 miles at marathon pace with one mile recovery).  I love this workout because it plays to my strengths (which is also why I prefer not to do it too often).  So I'm really looking forward to indulging in it again.


Monday: In the morning, yoga and 7.5 "miles" of pool-running.  2.5 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 9.5 miles, including 3 mile warm-up, and then 6x800 in 2:59, 2:56, 2:58, 2:55, 2:55, 2:53. Followed with 2.5 mile cooldown and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8.5 miles very easy to yoga (9:12) followed by drills, 4 hill sprints, and upper body/core strengthwork.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: In the morning, DIY yoga to stretch hips and 7 "miles" pool-running.  Another 3 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: In the morning, a 3 mile shakeout (9:18).  Then drive to Pittsburgh.  DIY yoga to stretch hips followed by 4 mile fartlek warm-up and a mile race in 5:34.  Then drive home.

Saturday: In the afternoon, 1000 yards recovery swimming and 6 "miles" pool-running, followed by foam rolling.

Sunday: 12 miles very easy (8:47) followed by drills.  8 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in afternoon.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Race Report: Liberty Mile, July 28, 2017

I ran the Liberty Mile in Pittsburgh, PA, finishing in a time of 5:33.86 by my watch (the official results say 5:34 chip time/5:35 gun time - which is consistent).

One sentence in, you're probably wondering some variant of "why did she go all the way to Pittsburgh to run a mile race?  Isn't she in the middle of marathon training?  In DC/Northern Virginia?"

You're not the only one wondering that.  Brian thought I was nuts.  (aside: I am.)  But this trip also made some convoluted/runner-logic sense.


I first heard about this race several months ago, when my one-step-up-from-imaginary-friend/RWOL forumite Sam mentioned he was running it.  I checked it out.  Hmm....a road mile.  I love road miles - they're one of my favorite races.  And this one had a separate masters heat with solid prize money.  The prize money was obviously a draw, but so was the separate masters heat - in many races I find myself staring at the women near me, trying to guess how old they are.  Not this time - every woman lined up would be a direct competitor.

The downsides, of course, was the distance between DC and Pittsburgh (just under 250 miles one way).  And the race also fell several weeks into my marathon training cycle.  While the race was on a Friday night, and some people might be able to get away with racing a mile on Friday night and a Sunday morning progressive long run, I'm not one of them.  Racing this mile basically meant a missed week of marathon training.

Oh well.  I had mentally placed the Liberty Mile in the "some other year" file, but ran it past my coach anyway.  And (somewhat to my surprise), he actually really liked the idea.  To him, the missed week of marathon training wasn't a negative but a plus - a good opportunity to take a break.  And this week was a good time to pull back a bit and have some fun - the real meat of my marathon training cycle starts next week.


So that was that.  Logistics were going to be a challenge, though.  I looked at flight and train schedules for Pittsburgh, and concluded that neither was a good choice.  More money than I cared to pay for something that wasn't a goal race, and the arrival/departure timing options were lousy also.  So I was driving.

Pittsburgh was also just close enough that it was hard to justify a hotel.  I would have booked a hotel if this had been a morning race, but for an evening race doing Pittsburgh as a day trip was doable, and the most efficient option from both a price and "spending time away from home" perspective.

So, I went to my back-up: Golds Gym.  I checked out the map, and confirmed that there was a Golds Gym right around the corner from the packet pick-up/runner's festival area (which was itself a block or two from the finish and start lines).  Excellent.  I picked up a free "travel pass" from my home Golds.  When arriving in Pittsburgh, I'd present this, sign some forms, and be a member of the Pittsburgh Golds Gym for the evening - meaning I could store my stuff in a locker while I raced, and shower there after.


The one thing that I couldn't plan ahead of time was the weather.  Which I wasn't that worried about.  I won't melt if I run in the rain, or blow away in the wind.  And heat/humidity aren't the factors in mile races that they are for longer distances.

But, as luck would have it, the evening of the Liberty Mile was also the evening that a "summer nor'easter" was to blow through, complete with lightning.  Ugh.  Lightning is one of the very rare situations where I won't run outside (the others are substantial ice and wind that is blowing trees over).  I really didn't want to drive 4 hours to find out the race was cancelled.

I debated, and decided to head up anyway.  Since the race was so short, they'd likely shuffle schedules or combine heats rather than cancel altogether - a mile race with heats has a bit more flexibility in timing than a single long distance race.  If the race was cancelled, I'd just head back home and do a 16 miler on Sunday after all.


The drive up to Pittsburgh had some challenging aspects.  I left home at 10:00 am (so as to miss heavy traffic).  Unfortunately, this was about the time the first of the heavy rain squalls moved into the DC area.    Just crossing the American Legion Bridge into Maryland was a miserable experience, and I-270 north wasn't much better.  Slogging through stop-and-go traffic in a downpour that was overwhelming my windshield wipers, that Sunday 16 miler was sounding better and better.  I decided that if things hadn't improved by the time I hit Frederick, MD, I was turning around.

But fortunately. somewhere north of Urbana, MD (just south of Frederick) the rain and the traffic eased.  And from there, it was a relatively easy and scenic drive.  I've never driven to Pittsburgh before, so it was a bit touristy.  I got to drive under a mountain, and that was really cool.

About 4 hours and 45 minutes after leaving DC, having refueled my car for the return voyage, I parked my car at the garage next to Golds, and then parked myself at Golds.  I hung out there or in the nearby Market Square, eating my pre-race meal, reading my kindle, and stretching, until it was time to warm up for the race.  It was overcast, but so far only breezy and light on-and-off rain, not the predicted apocalypse.


My heat was scheduled to start at 7:25, but I started to warm up at 6 pm.  This is very early, even for me.  My reasoning was that there was a solid chance the start times of the heats would be changed with little notice to work around the weather.  To that point, the race had specified that runners should be in the starting area 30 minutes before their scheduled race.  I inferred from that statement that the start times might be moved up by as much as 30 minutes with little notice, and so I planned my warm-up as if I was racing at 6:55.    If the race did start at the normal time, I could just extend my warm-up.  The nice thing about being in marathon training was that adding an extra mile or two to my warm-up wouldn't affect my mile race at all.

My warm-up was the same old mile warm-up.  Jog some miles easy, then run 2 segments of 30 to 90 seconds very hard.  Since I never feel good in the first interval of a workout, I try to get that out of the way before the race.  Then drills.  Plus some strides right before the race starts.

My heat did end up starting at the normal time, so I just repeated part of my warm-up again with about 20 minutes to go - jogging another half mile plus another 90 seconds HARD.  Then more drills and strides, and I lined up.


As I expected, I didn't recognize any of the other women on the start line, and thus had no idea how this would play out.  Since I was going for prize money, I needed to start very close to the line.  However, this was a mixed masters heat, and so there were men who were not prize money contenders who nevertheless would be faster than me.   In this situation, I always start in one "corner" or the other, so that I don't block others.

A group of women, all presumably going for the money, were grouped on the righthand edge of the line.  After thinking for a moment, I took the left hand corner.  This was for two reasons - one, I could see that about 50 meters ahead, the course narrowed from the right.  Someone starting on the far right could get blocked in there.  Second, I wanted to be able to run the first 5 or 10 seconds of my race ignorant of what the other women were doing, so I could set my own rhythm.

I could see the argument for starting on the right - the course does a U turn to the right at the half-way point.  But I decided the cost of the extra 5 feet I was adding to my race was balanced out by the benefits of starting on the left.

The course, from the USATF website.


With 10 minutes to go, we were called to the line.  About 2 minutes before the gun, the rain started to fall, again.  At least it wasn't heavy.  (and as it turns out, it apparently faded away during my race, since it wasn't raining much when I finished)

Then the gun went off.  I took a few quick strides to get off the line and out of the way of others, and then established my rhythm.  I wanted to come through the first 400 controlled before gently building.  After feeling my rhythm, I looked for the other women .  There were at least seven women, and likely more, in front of me.  As always, I briefly fought the urge to panic, reminding myself that leading a mile race in the first 200m was rarely a guarantee of success.  A mile can be a very very long race.  I'd stick with my plan to stay controlled through 400 before building.

Sure enough, by the time I hit 400m (this race has markers and clocks at the 400, 800, and 1200 marks) many of the women were starting to come back to me.  I did glance at the 400m clock as I ran by it and noted "1:18."  A bit fast, but it felt fine (I think in retrospect we may have had a tailwind).  If nothing else, I was glad I hadn't gone out faster.

Over the next 200-300m, I began to reel in the other women.  I tried to be patient, reminding myself that we still had a long way to go.  There was one woman in a black sports bra who kept pulling further ahead - she had been about 4 seconds ahead at the 400m, and her lead was growing.

There was really no debate about trying to catch her at that pace.  Either she was simply much faster than me, or she was going to blow up big time.  Regardless of which held true, my best strategy was continuing my own steady build.

This race has a series of three right turns in short succession at the halfway point.    Things got a bit dicey here as people interacted trying to hold "the rail."  Puddles and torn up pavement didn't help either.  I lost some pace here, but so did everyone else.  By this point, I had passed quite a few women, and was in fourth.  As we exited the turn and headed to the finish line (about 600 m in the distance), I picked up the pace yet again, and pulled past one and then the other.

There was now just black sports bra woman ahead of me, but she was way too far to catch.  I wasn't going to win female masters, but second was mine with a strong finish.   I reached for an additional gear, but it wasn't there - I had that weird "I could go longer at this same pace but no faster" feeling.  Oh well - my fastest was all I could give.

As I approached the last 200m of the race, I started to stiffen.  There was a pack of men just ahead of me, so I distracted myself with them.  They were slowing, and so I chased down as many as I could before the finish.   I found that, as I did so, my gait became more fluid.  Basically, I locked up when I was worrying about holding off the runners behind me, but loosened up when chasing those ahead.  So that's a note for the future - focus on what's ahead of you, not what's behind.

I crossed the line in second, satisfied.  It wasn't the masters win I had hoped for, but I had run a solid race - the first woman was simply faster.  I did note that I was nowhere near as trashed as I had been after my last two mile races this year.  I had to place my hands on my knees and catch my breath, but no wobbling over to a curb to sit down.  I think that echoes the same thing I noted during the race - I don't have the same speed in my legs that I did earlier this year (most likely due to marathon mileage), and so I couldn't hit quite the same intensity.


After the race, I hung out to watch Sam run the under-40 heat, and then the two elite heats.  I've never had the chance to watch the conclusion of a mile race of this caliber before, and it was amazing to witness from 20 feet away just how ridiculously fast Ben Blankenship and Emily Lipari can kick.

Then (after confirming my check for $300 would be mailed to me), I headed to Golds to shower and change, and texted Brian that I was heading home.  I left Pittsburgh at 8:30 pm - a bit later than planned because I stayed to watch the elite heats, but it was worth it.

The drive home was...a drive.  I had packed an overnight bag to give me the option of staying at a hotel if I started nodding off during the drive, but I was fine.  I'm usually buzzed for hours after an evening race, and this one was no different.

The drive itself was a bit tough - the further I was from Pittsburgh the worse the weather got, with wind gusts that rocked my car and puddles of water that yanked at my steering wheel.  All punctuated by urgent chirps from my cell phone informing me that yet another flash flood warning was in effect.  But I just eased up on the speed, telling myself I was in no rush.  I had streaming NPR on satellite radio, so a longer drive was just more time to catch up on world events (or soak in my wannabe east coast elitism, depending on perspective).

Interestingly, I also noted that the quality of the drivers decreased dramatically the closer I got to DC.  On the Pennsylvania turnpike and into western Maryland, there was a vibe of "we're all in this together."  Nearly everyone one was driving reasonably for the conditions - staying right except for passing; slowing down when the rain was at its worst.

Not so in DC.  Once I hit 270, the idiocy increased, and by the time I hit the beltway, it was epic.  Every accident I drove past was in the last 30-40 minutes of a drive that took a bit over 4 hours.  Had the drive been like that in Pennsylvania, I would exited and crashed at a hotel for the night.

But finally, I was home, arriving around 12:45 am.  Long day.  But a fun one, and I'm happy I did it.

Returning to the opening notes of this race report - some may say that spending nearly 10 hours of driving to race for about 5 and a half minutes is insanity.   I left my house at 10 am and returned at 12:45 am - so this race adventure took 14:45 hours.

Riposte: I have friends (doubtless the same ones who think I'm insane for driving this far for a mile), who run races in the middle of the wilderness that are 100km or more in length, and can take more than 20 hours to complete. My adventure took less time, and I undoubtedly feel better now and will recover quicker from my mile race than you feel or recover after your ultra marathon.  And I got to stay in civilization and listen to a lot of NPR to boot.

So there.

Other notes:

  • This is a really well run race.  I've raced road miles before, but never one that was a major event, complete with finish festival, media coverage, elite field.  I definitely want to run it again.
  • This race had signs and clocks at the 400m, 800m, and 1200m points, and also signs for 200m and 100m to go.  In a road mile race, when it's hard to judge where you are, that stuff is really helpful.
  • Official conditions for my race were 73 degrees and rain.  As I noted above, I think it only rained for the first minute or so of my race before drying out.  There were gusts of wind from all sides, but I think we were sheltered enough that it didn't make too much difference.  The wet pavement and the bunching up at the half-way point turn were the biggest obstacles to a fast time.
  • I'm both happy and disappointed with the time itself. I honestly had no idea what I was going to run - I have that 5:25 from earlier in the year, but that was with fresher legs, and was in clear, dry weather.  I would have liked to have broken 5:30 again, but it's not the end of the world that I didn't.  I had fun, and I've clearly retained much of my speed from this spring as I head into the heaviest part of the marathon cycle, so that's good.
  • Broke out my Adidas Takumi Sen Boosts for this - best short distance race shoe ever.  I don't know what I'm going to do when this pair wears out.  (they only come in mens, and finding them in size 5.5 is just about impossible - I had to order this current pair from Japan.)
  • I've tried to figure out for some time exactly what I love so much about road miles.  I think that it's the closest I ever come, from an adrenaline/emotional perspective, to my old days jumping horses at speed.    The tension at the start line tastes very much like what I felt when I trotted in the gate and heard "the beep" clearing me to start my round.  And the mile race itself is very much like a jump off - there's no time to question - you just react.  There's just so much more adrenaline in the mile, and (as a recovering adrenaline junkie) it's awesome to get a hit of that.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Training log - Week ending 7/23/17

This week was 59 miles of running, 27 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

And the heat continued.  Temps in the 80s and dew points in the 70s.  It's like this in DC every year, and yet it seems noteworthy every year.

It's hard to train in this weather.  But yet, I think it's beneficial.  And not in that "humidity is a poor woman's altitude training" way.

If I lived in a more consistent climate, like California, it would be very easy to fall into a training rut - the only variation in my training would be that driven by my training cycle.  The seasonal changes in DC force us into variety - in the summer we focus on mileage and short fast stuff, limiting long sustained efforts in the heat.  In the winter, we shift to longer efforts in odd locations (like under a freeway), focusing on sustained effort over time, rather than splits.

Since conditions aren't conducive to running our fastest year round, we get two seasons where we can ignore times, and just focus on effort and placing  And that's mentally refreshing.  Balanced out by two seasons where we can race very fast.

Plus the obvious - when you run in a wide variety of conditions, you gain confidence that you can handle those conditions.  Several times each year, I run in 90 degrees with high humidity, in single digit temperatures, in 30 mph winds, or in a torrential downpour.  Like everyone else, I hope for great conditions on race day, and I plan my goal races to maximize my chances of weather perfection.  But I can handle what race day gives me, because I've experienced it before.

Related to the above - while some avoid marathon training in the summer, I've decided that I actually prefer it. To be more specific, I prefer marathon training over 5k-half training in the summer.

Why?  When I'm focused on training for the 5K to half, my tempos are my priority workouts - and those can be challenging in the heat.  But when I'm marathon training, mileage and time on my feet are crucial, with speed work taking back seat.  And even in very hot and humid weather, I can get the miles in - I just drink a lot of water and rachet back my expectations.    For that reason, I'd much rather train for a marathon in August, saving the shorter distances for January, when I don't care that much if I have to miss a run or two due to ice and snow, as long as I get the tempo done at some point that week.


Monday: In the morning, foam rolling, yoga and 7.5 "miles" pool-running. 2.5 "miles" pool-running in the evening.

Tuesday: 11 miles, including a track workout of 2x(1600, 800) in 6:04, 2:54, 5:56, 2:47.  Also did injury prevention work at the gym and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam-rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 8 miles very easy to yoga (9:12), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy (9:22).  4 "miles" pool-running and a massage in the afternoon/evening.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights and core followed by foam rolling and 9 "miles" pool-running.  Another 3 "miles" of pool-running at night.

Friday: 10 miles, including 7 hill repeats (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill). Followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (9:30) followed by drills and four strides, and upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling and 1 "mile" pool-running in afternoon (pool closed early due to lightning).

Sunday: 16 miles progressive, split as first 5 at 9:35 pace, next 5 at 7:51, last 6 at 6:55.  Followed with injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.   Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Training log - Week ending 7/16/17

This week was 57 miles of running, 30 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

My second week of marathon training.  This week, I added the evening pool-running doubles in full force.  In a change from last year, where I ramped up the evening doubles gradually,  I decided to add them all in at once.  That's four extra evenings of pool-running, which adds up to an additional 12+ "miles" of pool-running per week.

While 12+ miles (aka 2 hours) is a decent amount of additional work, I also know that recovery from pool-running is different from that for land running.  For that reason, I don't think this bump is as risky as adding the equivalent mileage on land.  It's certainly not the same injury risk, and I don't think it's as risky from an overtraining standpoint either.  We shall see.  If I feel like it's too much, I can always back off and ramp up more slowly.

(How will I know if it's too much?  My classic warning sign is sleep - if I have difficulty falling asleep on two consecutive nights, I'm starting to overreach, and it's time to back off.)

In other news (that is the same old news) we got blasted by some tough DC heat and humidity this week.  The humidity was especially rough on Friday morning (dew point of 75 - tough for hill repeats).  Despite that, the hill workout went better than last week's.  I switched back to Advair 250/50 for my asthma, and it's pretty clear that I need to stay on that dose.

I also got lax on controlling my easy runs this week, and it showed in my Sunday long run (went OK, but I had to work harder than I would like).  It's really hard to pull back on the easy runs as much as I personally need to when I'm running with others.  Especially when I want to chat with people who are running at a pace that is totally reasonable for them, but just slightly faster than my preferred pace.  And especially when the "too fast for me" easy pace is still substantially slower than what one would predict based on my race times, and may look "fine" to others.  (Saturday run - I'm looking at you).

But the truth is that we're all experiments of one.  And for me personally, I need to ride the brakes hardcore on the days I'm not running hard, so that I can get what I need from the hard days.   Especially when I'm also a) dealing with DC heat/humidity and b) bumping up the training volume.  Duly noted.


Monday: In the morning, foam rolling, yoga and 7 "miles" pool-running. 3 "miles" pool-running in the evening.

Tuesday: 10 miles, including a track workout of 2x1600, 2x800 in 6:07, 5:57, 2:55, 2:51.  Also did injury prevention work at the gym and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam-rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy to yoga (8:55), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy (8:58).  4 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the evening.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights and core followed by foam rolling and 10 "miles" pool-running.  Another 2 "miles" of pool-running at night.

Friday: 10 miles, including 6 hill repeats (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill). Followed with injury prevention work and 1100 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (8:46) followed by drills and four strides, and upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling and 4 "miles" pool-running in afternoon.

Sunday: 14 miles progressive, split as first 4 at 9:17 pace, next 5 at 7:44, last 5 at 7:01.  Followed with injury prevention work and 650 yards recovery swimming.   Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Training log - Week ending 7/9/17

This week was 57 miles of running, 18 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Week 1 of marathon training is in the books.  I kicked it off with a casual four mile race that provided karmic balance to my good races from earlier this year (confession: achieving karmic balance wasn't my purpose in running that four miler).

I also struggled some with the last repeats of Friday's hill workout.  I first attributed this to the horrendous humidity (temperature and dew point of 73).  However, when I puffed my rescue inhaler during the cooldown, the result was almost instant relief.   Albuterol doesn't fix humidity or lack of fitness, so this indicated that my asthma was raising its ugly head.

Pretty disappointing, though not totally unexpected.  About 10 days ago, as part of my "how low can I go with my asthma prescriptions now that I'm on Xolair" experiment, I had dropped my Advair dosage from the 250/50 strength to the 100/50 strength.  But it's now looking like that might be too low, so back on the 250/50 I go.  Oh well.

I also added in a double this week, with an evening pool-run.  As my training cycle progresses, I'll do more of these evening pool-running doubles (I would have done another one on Saturday, except that I was out of town).  Just like last year.

My coach and I are re-using last summer's Chicago training plan for Mohawk-Hudson - the only difference is that my training paces will be a bit faster, since I'm starting the cycle with more fitness and speed than I had last year at this time.

My land mileage for this cycle will be the same as it was this spring (for 5K-half training) and the same as it was for the Chicago marathon cycle - I'll still be averaging 50-60-ish miles on land.  And just like before, the primary distinction between my short distance training and my marathon training will be a) longer long runs, and b) more pool-running, including evening pool-running.

There are some people who believe that you should always be trying to progress your training by increasing mileage each cycle.  I understand the reasoning, but that's not for me.   As I've learned in the past year, I race better on less mileage and a limited number of long runs.  My endurance is my strength, and so there's really no need to hammer at that by maxing out the mileage.  Rather, I try to stay as fresh as I can while doing the minimum necessary to develop marathon fitness and comfort at marathon pace.  The training plan for Chicago last year hit that balance perfectly.

Since what we're doing is working right now, there's no good reason to "fix" it.  We'll just hold the course until I plateau.  If that happens, then my coach and I will decide what, if anything, needs to change.


Monday: In the morning, 4 miles very easy (9:05) and then a gentle yoga class (I don't usually do yoga the day before a race, but it was a class I really wanted to support, so I showed up and childs-posed the more intense parts).  Foam roller and ice bath in the afternoon.

Tuesday: 3 mile warm-up, and then 4-ish mile race in 26:58.   Later did 6 "miles" pool-running and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 7.5 miles very easy to yoga (9:03), yoga, and then 4.5 miles very easy (9:02).  Sports massage in afternoon.

Thursday: In the morning, upper body weights and core followed by 9 "miles" pool-running.  Another 3 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling at night

Friday: 10 miles, including 6 hill repeats (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill). Followed with injury prevention work and 1250 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles very easy (9:17) followed by drills and two strides, and upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday: 14 miles progressive, split as first 5 at 9:13 pace, next 4 at 7:55, last 5 at 6:57.  Followed with injury prevention work and 750 yards recovery swimming.   Foam rolling in afternoon.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Race Report: DC Road Runners Age-Handicapped 4 Miler

Here's the start schedule for the race.
As a 43 year old woman, I started at 8:14:03
I ran the DC Road Runners Age Handicapped 4 Miler today in a time of 41:01 (26:58 was my running time, plus a 14:03 handicap), which was good enough for 10th overall.

This is a fun and unique race.  Unlike other races which all start at the same time, this race has a staggered start based on age and gender.  No bibs, no timing chips, no certified course (the 4 miles is approximate).  Just a very low key, fun race, where the first person to the finish line is the winner.

I ran this race last year also, and thus I'm familiar with the "trick" to this race.  In most races, we're used to starting with the faster people ahead of us, and the slower people behind us.  Thus, we subconsciously base our pacing strategy to some extent on others -  who's ahead of us, who's behind us, is there a pack to work with.

In this race, everything's reversed.  For the most part, the slower people start ahead, while the faster start behind.  This is surprisingly disconcerting.

The trick to running this race well is to run your own race.  But the structure of the race highlights just how hard it can be to do just that.

This year, I failed to run my own race, and learned a good lesson :)


This race is a double out and back on the C&O towpath.  From the start, one runs up to mile marker 11 (about half a mile), then turns around and runs two miles down, past the start/finish and mile marker 10, to mile marker 9.  Then another hairpin turn and you run about a mile and a half to the finish.  The mile markers on the towpath are approximations and not exact - in reality the course is slightly longer than four miles (which I have no objections to - the race is very clear that this is not a certified course, and that the distance is approximate).  

My strategy for this race was to stay conservative for much of the race, until I hit mile marker 10 for the second time.  At that point, I'd be about a half mile from the finish, and I could hammer.

I stuck to this strategy well at first - it was easy, since at my controlled pace I was still passing people.  However, about 2 miles in, I was passed by two women who had started behind me.  I'll fess up that at this point I made a bad decision and started chasing.    I kept them within reach until the second turnaround, and then got more aggressive.  The first woman came back to me fairly easy, and so I got to work on the second.

I was reeling her in, but also burying myself in the process.  And unfortunately I fell apart before I could catch her.  Had I just stayed calmer and more patient and focused on running my own race and not been quite as aggressive so early, I might still have been able to catch her before the finish.  But I got too impatient and pushed too early. That mistake, combined with a) overestimating my own fitness and b) underestimating the effects of the humidity (it was a typical DC July morning), did me in.  The last half mile of the race was pretty unpleasant, and several more people passed me.

Oh well.  I can't say I'm happy with the race.  On the other hand, I need to relearn these lessons from time to time, and better here than at a goal race.

My approximate mile splits, according to Strava, were 6:47, 6:41, 6:31, 6:37.  I also took manual splits on my Garmin at the mile markers.  Those were:

To MM 11: .47 miles in 3:12 (6:47 pace)
To MM 10: 1.01 miles in 6:49 (6:46 pace)
Out to MM 9 and back to 10: 2.04 miles in 13:22 (6:32 pace)
Back to finish: .54 miles in 3:35 (6:42 pace).


For my efforts, I was 10th overall.  For this race, each runner brings a prize of some sort - donations included CDs, books, sweatshirts, plants, boxes of cookies, etc.  These prizes are all placed on a picnic table.  Then, after the finish, each runner is allowed to select from the table, in the order of placing.  As the 10th placed runner, I had a solid selection of items to choose from.  I debated briefly - there was the sweatshirt that would work well as a pre-race throw-away, the stick of body glide (always useful), the bottle of tasty barbecue sauce...and of course the bottle of anti-wrinkle face moisturizer.

My haul.
But then I spotted the stuffed animal - a little flying monkey with goggles and cape.  And a speaker inside that emits noises that sound like a slow and painful death.  (I'm not sure that was the original intent).  I collect stuffed animals from races - I have an otter and an owl from Grandma's, a pair of tigers from Army 10 Miler, and a bear from Cherry Blossom.  The flying monkey was clearly meant to be mine, so I picked him (I can buy anti-wrinkle moisturizer at CVS anytime I want).

As it turned out, not all the prizes got taken, so after the awards were finished, the rest were up for grabs.  Thus, I also scored a book -  "Galloway's Book on Running" (published in 1984, before he started advocating run-walking) - and a tote to carry everything in.  Not bad.

Other notes:

  • Warmed up with 3 miles, including 2 minutes hard and then some drills and strides - felt good and ready to run at the start.
  • Temperature of 79, DP of 67 for the race.  Not ideal, but it's a DC summer - what do you expect.
  • Breathing was fine.  My struggles were due entirely to bad judgment/mental lapses, not to asthma.  And that's a good thing.
  • Decided to keep my cool-down jog to the pool, rather than on land.  This race is on the towpath, which is hard on my ankles.  Four miles (plus the 3 mile warm-up) isn't long enough to create too much strain, but I saw no point in pushing my luck by doing more miles on the towpath post-race. 
  • I got another shot of Xolair yesterday, and thus had to carry an epi-pen in a spi-belt for the race (I'm required to carry an epi-pen for 24 hours after each Xolair shot).  So I got to live out my dream of racing while wearing a fanny pack.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Training log - Week ending 7/2/17

This week was 42 miles of running, 25 "miles" of pool-running and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I returned to training this week, joining my team for a hill workout on Friday.  I like the hill workouts because they're more about form than pace, and they also include plenty of recovery between the bouts of hard running.  For those reasons, I find the hill workouts mentally easier than the track, and a nice way to ease back into training.  

Additionally, I'm always happier doing a workout on the roads than on the track.  If I had to rank my terrain preferences, it would be roads/asphalt first, then the track, and then trails at the bottom (and yes, I know this ranking is the inverse of others' preferences).  It's nice to return to workouts with something that's firmly in my comfort zone.

The hill workout went very well.  I showed up fully expecting to be dropped by the group I'd been training with pre-break, but instead I hung with them without straining.  I had also decided ahead of time that I'd only do as many reps as felt right - the workout is normally 6-8 reps, but there's really no need to force the workout when one's just coming back.  However, I felt good enough that 6 reps was no issue.  I could have done more, but called it there because more reps would have been unnecessary.

So yay.  Of course, as a friend pointed out, it really wasn't surprising that I had retained my fitness - it takes about 10 days to 2 weeks to start seriously losing fitness, and so my 7 days no running+7 days easy running were enough to refresh, but not enough to set me back.

I did have one minor alert when my left hamstring tightened up on Thursday after my pool-run.  I have a history of both sciatica and hamstring issues in my left leg.  I was fairly certain this was sciatica - pool-running doesn't normally trigger hamstring soreness, while it does occasionally make my sciatica flare (other sciatica triggers - too much rest, sleeping in the wrong position, overdoing certain yoga poses that involve backbends or deep twists).  Additionally, I couldn't find any trigger points in my hamstring, despite considerable examination with a tennis ball - when the muscle feels tight, but I can't pin point it, it's almost always a nerve issue, not muscular.  And my left foot was cramping - that's also consistent with sciatica.

It was fairly important to confirm whether this was sciatica or a hamstring issue.  For myself, the best cure for sciatica is to work through it, while rest aggravates it.  However, the inverse holds for a hamstring issue - running though hamstring tightness is a very bad idea.  Put another way: sciatica -> run and do the workout; hamstring -> skip the workout, and consider not running at all.

So, I laid on my back on the floor to self-diagnose (I've done this before).  I extended both legs all the way out on the floor, flexed my feet, and then raised my left leg in the air (knee straight, foot flexed) until I felt the tightness.  Once I got there, I pointed my toes, bent my knee slightly, and flexed at the hip slightly more - the net effect of this (if I understand correctly) was to maintain the same tension on my hamstring while relieving the tension on my sciatic nerve.

Sure enough, as soon as I pointed my foot, the tightness eased.  Sciatica, not hamstring,  Based on that information, I showed up for Friday's hill workout.  By the time I had surmounted the hill for the first time, the hamstring tightness was completely gone.  And it stayed gone for the rest of the weekend.  Whew.  I love it when that happens.

Next week is my first week of fall marathon training.  I'll race on Tuesday for the heck of it, followed by more hills on Friday, and then 14 miles on Sunday.


Monday: In the morning, yoga, and then 7 "miles" of pool-running. Foam rolling in the evening.

Tuesday: 9 miles very easy (9:11), followed by drills and four hill sprints, and strength/core work at the gym. Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy to yoga (8:56), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy (9:11) plus drills and four strides. Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: 9 "miles" pool-running plus upper body weights and core. Foam rolling at night

Friday: 11 miles, including 6 hill repeats (~500m up, then 200m jog, 100m stride, and 100m jog down to base of hill). Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards easy swimming. Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles very easy (9:30) followed by drills and four strides, and then DIY yoga and foam rolling.

Sunday: Upper body weights and core, followed by 9 "miles" of pool-running (skipped my normal long run, since I'm racing on Tuesday)  Foam rolling in afternoon.